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Bergoglio’s New “Marriage Mess”

Berg IPhoneA papal phone call and sacraments for the invalidly married.

by Rev. Anthony Cekada

“I want a mess,” said Jorge Bergoglio during World Youth Day in Rio last year — and boy, is he making one.

I’m not referring to the John XXIII/John Paul II canonization but to another potentially more momentous incident that’s been obscured by it.

On Easter Monday, Francis phoned an Argentine woman who had been refused communion by her parish priest for living in an invalid marriage. Bergoglio told her she could “safely receive Communion, because she is doing nothing wrong.”

Such advice, of course, would baldly contradict — make a mess of — the divine law on the indissolubility of marriage and on the worthiness required for those who receive the Eucharist.

Absolutely everyone knows the Church has always taught that marriage is indissoluble, that divorce and subsequent attempted remarriage is a sin, and that those living in the latter situation cannot receive the sacraments, period.

It's been tried before.

It’s been tried before!

But thanks to Vatican II, the overwhelming majority of those who now call themselves Catholics want to see that teaching overthrown. And Bergoglio has repeatedly made it clear he sides with them. (See my article Divorce Bergoglio Style.)

The implications of the story are overwhelming. In an extremely perceptive article that appeared in The New York Times, Ross Douthat discusses several scenarios of what the phone call portends for Catholic teaching. The “most perilous,” he says, is this:

“Francis could actually be considering a truly major shift on remarriage and communion, in which the annulment requirement is dispensed with and (perhaps) a temporary penance is substituted.

Such a shift wouldn’t just provoke conservative grumbling; it would threaten outright schism. The Church has famous martyrs to the indissolubility of Christian marriage, and its teaching on divorce and adultery is grounded not just in tradition or natural law, but in the explicit words of Jesus of Nazareth.

“This means that admitting to communion people the Church considers to be in permanently adulterous relationships wouldn’t just look like a modest development in doctrine. It would look like a major about-face, a doctrinal self-contradiction.”

After word of the Bergoglian cold-call spread, appalled conservative bloggers like Fr. Zuhlsdorf and Jimmy Aiken went into full spin mode, trying to minimize its import. Damien Thompson, on the other hand, called the story “a hand grenade into traditional teaching on divorcees and Communion,” and predicted that “the Catholic world will divide into celebration and panic.”

And the official word from the Vatican? A firm denial, perhaps, coupled with a declaration that “The Holy Father did not and would never make such a statement, because to do so would undermine the Church’s constant teaching and practice on the matter”?

Uh, no.


YOU’RE confused!

The Holy See Press Office, instead, tried to downplay the account — but did not deny that it was substantially accurate. Reports about the call, said Fr. Federico Lombardi, were a “source of misunderstanding and confusion.” (!)

He added, “consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.”

That is just the sort of consoling thought conservatives would like to take refuge in when faced with the latest Bergoglio mess: “Francis may be a little naïve and unpredictable, but there’s nothing to worry about here.”

But the very opposite is true, and it is time for uneasy conservatives to focus on the unpleasant reality that the “naïve” Francis has quite deliberately launched an across-the-board process of radical transformation.

For this we have the word of Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, head of Bergoglio’s eight-cardinal advisory council. Francis, he said recently, is seeking to build a “new way of being church”

“There is a new concept of church here… There is a new way of thinking, including the way of governing in the church, here.”

What is this “new way”? Looking back over the catalogue of Bergoglian messes, we can see a pattern emerge.

Bergoglio sows the seeds of change through what at first appears to be chaos. But far from being misrepresented in the secular media, he manipulates it to his ends with a peasant-like cunning.

In a few short months, therefore, Francis has positioned himself as “the people’s pope” and become a world-wide object of adoration, thanks to self-aggrandizing gestures designed to showcase his “humility,” “compassion,” “simplicity,” contempt for “small-minded rules,” indifference towards sexual immorality, and moralizing on social issues dear to the left (immigration, income disparity, unemployment and “climate change.”)

All this Francis does in hopes of reversing the disastrous effects of Vatican II. Modern man abandoned the Church after the Council, and the JP2/Ratzinger attempt to lure him back by putting a traditional veneer on the revolution fell flat on its face — or on its lace and silk damask-upholstered posterior, if you prefer.

The cardinals elected Bergoglio hoping a new direction would work. So on his watch, the prescription for the cure has changed to still more Vatican II, still more innovations, still more accommodations with the world, still more “renewal.”

Tradition is out. Transformation is in.

To this end, Bergoglio is, as the saying goes, “a man with a plan.” He’s set on using new methods to transform Catholic doctrine and moral teaching into the modernist dream. And his method is the “mess.”

Next interview encyclical.

Next interview encyclical.

1. Press Interviews

Bergoglio is particularly adept in using this tool to speed the transformative process along.

One-liners from his press interviews are repeatedly quoted, the most popular being “Who am I to judge?” Francis has told us there is no Catholic God, doctrinal security exists no more, he who claims to have all the answers does not have God within him, proselytism is nonsense, atheists can go to heaven. Other pithy sayings include a whole array of barbs against “small-minded rules,” “Pelagian” traditionalists, “ideology,” “casuistry,” and generally, any vestiges pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

The effect overall, as the modernist writer Richard Rohr pointed out, is that Francis

“.. has forever changed the Catholic conversation. We can never go completely backward. No one can ever say a validly elected pope, with all that implies in anyone’s mind, did not say the things Francis said in the interview published Thursday. They will be quoted for a long time to come. It is now a part of the authoritative data, like the Gospels themselves, and must be reckoned with.”

Indeed, as the title of Rohr’s article says, “It will be hard to go backward after Francis’ papacy.”

It was no accident therefore that in his first press interview, given in July 2013, Francis hinted at changing the policy on sacraments for the invalidly married. (See my post on this interview here.)

The pope said WHAT?

The pope said WHAT?

2. “Private” Communications

Bergoglio has repeatedly used other informal, supposedly private communications to get his message out. His “brother bishop” video for the Copeland Ministries Conference, his meeting with South America religious superiors, and his comments to an Austrian missionary bishop allowing for the possible married priests immediately come to mind.

His latest phone call is another example of making a mess to get out the message. Francis, the Argentine woman said, “told me to go and take Communion in a different parish.” He also said he was “dealing with the issue” of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.”

Of course this woman is going to repeat to others what he said to her! A phone call from the pope is news. The first question from anyone, especially a reporter, is “What did the pope say?” And if the answer causes a controversy, all the better!

And that’s why Bergoglio made this particular mess — to get the word out that the teaching on sacraments for the divorced and remarried is going to change.

Playing his boss's tune!

Playing his boss’s tune!

3. “Cardinal Communicators”

This is another necessary ingredient in chef Bergoglio’s mess hall, as we can see from the February consistory (meeting of cardinals).

Bergoglio used this occasion as well to promote his proposal to give sacraments to the invalidly married. He deputed Cardinal Walter Kasper to speak on the topic, and when some of the cardinals pushed back, Bergoglio doubled down. He gave the speech an explicit and public endorsement the next day — “serene theology,” he called it — and then authorized leaking its text to the press.

And the advisory council top banana, Cardinal Maradiaga, has become Bergoglio’s principal conduit for circulating radical “reform” proposals and for promoting more openly modernist theological teachings.

Having Maradiaga as his stalking horse allows Bergoglio to encourage fellow modernists, to acclimate the laity to future changes and to undermine potential conservative opposition. At the same time, Maradiaga provides Bergoglio with a cushion of “plausible deniability” if one of his proposals goes awry or provokes too much open opposition.

Bergoglio used Maradiaga very effectively in the public controversy over the German bishops new policy favoring sacraments for the invalidly married. When the head of the Vatican’s own Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, issued a letter reproving the bishops, Maradiaga was dispatched to give an interview dismissing Müller’s criticisms.

The new bark of Peter?

The new bark of Peter?

4. Ignore the Rules

This guarantees a mess, especially since a superior who ignores the rules encourages contempt for law in his subjects. Bergoglio has done it time and again, be it for customs connected with papal office, liturgical regulations, or most recently, canonization procedures.

In the course of a year, Bergoglio has bypassed even the liberalized post-Vatican II canonization rules no less than six times. In the case of John XXIII and John Paul II, the requirement for miracles had to be set aside because canonizing these two men is a symbolic way to canonize the Vatican II revolution, which Bergoglio wants to carry to its logical conclusion.

In bending these rules, moreover, Bergoglio is telegraphing a not-so-subtle signal to laggards and potential opponents: He won’t allow “small-minded rules” to stand in the way of his larger goals, cuz he be da man!

Nor will he, as we saw in the latest phone call incident, hesitate to ignore normal decision-making channels in the Church, especially if he can manifest his…

Incense? Ugh!

Incense? Ugh!

5. Contempt for Conservatives

This Bergoglio has conveyed on countless occasions in countless ways since his election. For proof, one need look no further than the tongue-in-cheek but utterly factual Pope Francis’ Little Book of Insults that was posted on the web several month ago. Virtually all of his targets are “on the right.”

Bergoglio’s recent phone call is a particularly outrageous example of this contempt. The parish priest who told the Argentine woman that she was forbidden to receive communion or absolution until she removed herself from an occasion of sin had faithfully applied what are still the official rules in the Novus Ordo.

Yet according to the woman, Bergoglio told her to go to another parish for sacraments, adding “there are some priests who are more papist that the pope…”

This statement is utterly consistent with Bergoglio’s well-documented vitriol against conservatives.

The consequences of the phone call incident will be devastating. The all-out modernists among the post-Vatican II clergy who give sacraments to the invalidly married will now be able to say that they are only following the pope’s example of “pastoral solicitude.”

Priests who have tried to be faithful to what is still officially post-Vatican teaching, on the other hand, will be reproached by modernist colleagues and members of the laity for trying to be “more papist than the pope.”

Many traditionally-minded priests in the Novus Ordo institution will simply surrender on the issue and give sacraments to the invalidly married. Why bother to fight with people, to play the bad guy, to enforce principles if even the Pope not only undermines me and others like me, but also speaks of us with utter contempt?

*     *     *

The stealth magisterium

The stealth magisterium

“Chaos Frank” is the pithy moniker that Novus Ordo Watch conferred on Jorge Bergoglio not long after his election, and it’s one that beleaguered conservatives, especially after his latest cringe-inducing cold call, may now think is not that far off the mark.

But should they feel reassured by the statement of another Vatican spokesman, Rev. Thomas Rosica, that any comments made by the Francis should not be construed as a change in church doctrine? “The magisterium of the church,” he declared, “is not defined by personal phone calls.”

Well don’t bet on it. Bergoglio and others like him will never directly deny the doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, or state that Church teaching on it has changed. Rather, they will do an end run around it in practice, stating that the Church is merely taking a “more pastoral” approach in applying the doctrine.

The Bergoglio buzzword “pastoral,” as we have explained elsewhere, is the’60s modernist code for undermining faith and morality through experience and actions.

And that, of course, is just what Bergoglio did here. The advice he gave to the Argentine woman was to ignore Church doctrine in practice. In effect it is to DENY the teaching.

A typically pessimistic sedevacantist reading of what’s going on here, perhaps?

Well not unless we’ve pulled off a stealth takeover of the New York Times op-ed page. Here’s yet another possible explanation that Ross Douthat offers for the Bergoglio phone call:

“One is what you might call the late-Soviet scenario, in which Catholic doctrine is officially unaltered, but the impression grows that even the pope doesn’t really believe these things, and that when the church’s leaders affirm a controversial position they’re going through the ideological motions — like Brezhnev-era apparatchiks — and not actually trying to teach a living faith.”

“Even the pope doesn’t really believe these things” — that was Mr. Douthat’s emphasis, not mine.

And “going through ideological motions,”  “not actually trying to teach a living faith” — not the words of a sedevacantist blogger either.

The same process we see at work in the phone incident will be repeated over and over throughout the Bergoglio “pontificate,” as he speedily turns Catholicism into nothing more than a content-free “brand.” Like your favorite beer, basketball shoes or sports team, you will have a certain loyalty to it born of habit, but you won’t look to it for God’s immutable truths or for objective moral principles by which you actually run your life. If “even the pope doesn’t really believe these things,” why should you?

Yes, Papa Gaga loves a mess. But when it comes to what he’s really after – a radically transformed Catholicism — he’s not so gaga after all.


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